Sunday, 3 March 2013

Doujin Shmups #7

Ablation (2007)
By: 16x16 Genre: Shooting Players: 1 Difficulty: Medium
Featured Version: PC First Day Score: 27,200
Also Available For: Nothing

There's certainly an encouraging number of passionate gamers out there creating all manner of homebrew/doujin games and the number seems to be increasing all the time, but as far as fan-made shmups are concerned, the favoured kind almost always seems to be swooshy, colourful bullet-hell games. This offering from 16x16, however, is a bit different. It was originally made for one of those game creation competitions and, as you can see from the screenshots, it actually has a look more reminiscent of a far more technically limited system like the ZX81! That little 1kB machine still managed to produce a good few enjoyable games though, so I remain confident that this splendidly-named shooter could also be spiffing!

The game display consists of a mere 160x100 pixels featuring four colours - black, white, and two shades of grey. Backdrops are exclusively comprised of the latter in various random-looking patterns while the black and white are used for all ships and bullets. The ship you'll control is tiny and made up of three small black rectangles and the enemy ships take several forms. The smallest and most numerous ones are circular and there are also slightly larger X's, square vessels which are larger still, and also huge (by this game's standards) battleships, and they're all made up of both black and white pixels. Obviously it's your job to take out as many of these as possible with your little ship which can be moved fairly quickly and accurately over any part of the screen but is armed only with a forward shot.

Fortunately it's an ultra-rapid-fire forward shot and, as implied by the title, it's used to pick apart the enemy ships one pixel at a time. This is useful as it's only the white pixels that can actually harm you as far as the ships themselves are concerned, although their bullets can be black or white and either can cost you a life. It's also possible to score a 'Core Hit' on larger ships by hitting their... ummm, cores I guess, which causes them to explode (and also bags you more points!). Some enemies leave behind one of three icons - one of them powers-up your ship's gun while the other two are bombs, one black and the other white, which are activated upon collection and destroy all pixels of the relevant colour on screen which includes bullets and usually renders the ships harmless as well.

So, as you may have gathered, the gameplay isn't a great deal more complicated than the appearance, but that shouldn't suggest that this is a bad game. The audio is a bit more up-to-date with reasonable in-game music and great sound effects, and the action is very smooth with top-notch control and collision-detection. It's quite a challenge too; I'm not especially good at it but there doesn't appear to be any level structure with it instead just throwing more and more ships at you until you can't cope any more. Once you manage to power-up the ship a bit, the going is obviously a bit easier, and taking a hit then merely reduces your power level by one rather than cost you a life, but it's still a tough game. Happily, the superb game-mechanics mean it's also very addictive and perfect for the odd five or ten minute blasting session. Who needs flashy neon graphics?

RKS Score: 7/10

Special Note: You may have noticed that the title screen says 'demo'. Well, try as I might, I couldn't find any version that didn't so I therefore assume the 'demo' is the only version released!

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